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Author dishes out another helping of 'Food Lover's Guide'

Photo Credit: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Longtime food writer Liz Crain and John Gorham, chef/owner of Toro Bravo and Tasty n Sons, are teaming up on a Tasty book to be released in 2016.Liz Crain surveys the eclectic array of small plates that just arrived in front of her, a brunch fit for a queen.

There are two chocolate potato doughnuts, Burmese pork stew over rice, and a breakfast board featuring little dabs and smidges of housemade seasonal offerings like lemon ricotta, bacon, bread, berries, pickled beets, a 6-minute egg and a heavenly chicken-liver mousse.

“There’s love on the table,” Crain says. “Everyone’s so happy. All of his restaurants feel like a party.”

Crain is talking about John Gorham, chef/owner of four Portland restaurants including this one, Tasty n’ Sons, a North Williams haunt known for its playful fare, standout flavors and breezy vibe. The signature Bloody Marys help draw huge crowds.

Crain’s been here dozens of times, for business and pleasure. The longtime Portland food writer is the author of the new “Food Lover’s Guide to Portland Second Edition,” which will be released Sept. 1 by Hawthorne Books, where she is editor and publicity director.

Like its first edition, the 204-page paperback isn’t a restaurant guide — which would be quickly outdated in a few years, if not sooner.

It’s a behind-the-scenes look at the purveyors and producers in Portland, the people and businesses that fuel the city’s lauded food scene.

Crain visited most of 600 or so businesses — everyone from coffee roasters and wine makers to distillers, brewers, bakers, fishmongers and meat distributors.

Although she’s a happy omnivore, she tracked down the city’s best vegan and gluten-free resources, as well as food festivals and kitchen supply stores.

“So many decisions had to be made; I added 150 (new businesses) but could’ve added 400,” says Crain, whose first edition published in 2010.

The second edition features two new sections. One is a walk through the city’s Latino and Mexican markets, written by Nick Zukin, owner of Mi Mero Mole on Southeast Division Street. The other is a look at Portland’s food cart scene, written by Brett Burmeister, blogger at Food Carts Portland.

Crain says she might have researched and wrote those sections herself, but her goal was to capture as many local experts’ voices as she could, to reflect Portland’s vivacious and democratic food scene.

Photo Credit: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - It's the colorful Breakfast Plate at Tasty 'n Sons.Crain has always taken a special interest in food. She grew up in Cincinnati, where she remembers making strange concoctions as a child, like putting orange juice concentrate in a Cool Whip tub to recreate the taste of an Orange Julius.

She studied English literature at Vassar College and moved to Portland in 2002, where she started freelance writing for local and national food publications.

In 2009 she co-organized Portland’s first Fermentation Festival, out of a growing fascination with making her own kimchi, miso, plum wine and cured meats.

The festival is now in its fifth year (having skipped one year), and is set for Oct. 16 at the Ecotrust Building in the Pearl District.

Fermentation has taken off here and nationally because “people want to be involved in making delicious food and drink for themselves,” Crain says.

Here there’s also good access to great produce, fishing, hunting and foraging, and fermenting “just makes sense,” she says.

One of the best parts of the “Food Lover’s Guide” is the surprising tidbits, like the fact that there is, indeed, such a thing as a “cheese mule.”

Steve Jones, of Southeast Portland’s Cheese Bar, describes in a Q&A that “shipping is a big hurdle, so when someone is visiting a farm or someone from a farm is coming to Portland we bribe them into carrying cheese for us.”

In another section, Crain digs into a universal curiosity: Why do so many chefs have tattoos?

Crain thought to pose the question at a 2008 event that paired local chefs with tattoo artists for food-inspired tattoos.

One of them was Tasty n’ Sons’ Gorham, one of Portland’s rock star chefs who also owns Tasty n’ Alder, the wildly popular tapas place Toro Bravo, and the new Mediterranean Exploration Co.

He replied, as he was about to add a butcher’s knife to his sleeve, that getting inked is as much for stress relief as it is about chefs’ appreciation for art — “that you get to carry with you wherever you go.”

Crain and Gorham have been literary partners almost ever since. Last year, after marathon interviews with Gorham over three years, they produced the highly lauded hardcover book, “Toro Bravo: Stories. Recipes. No Bull,” by McSweeney’s Publishing.

Crain says she and Gorham just meshed: “He lives life to the fullest; that’s the kind of person I am,” she says.

Next up, the duo are partnering to write a “Tasty” book that Crain expects to publish in 2016.

Like the Toro Bravo book, it will include stories, recipes and glossy photography from Tasty n’ Sons and Tasty n’ Alder.

It’ll also be a history of brunch in the U.S., which Crain and Gorham will research through travels to the Eastern seaboard where Gorham grew up. Between writing, Crain is usually in her garden or home kitchen in North Portland, throwing huge dinner parties.

The 37-year-old won’t likely run out of stories any time soon. Portlanders are “really curious and adventurous, so learning the stories behind what makes it to the plate feeds our minds as much as it feeds our bellies,” she says. “It’s nice to get that backstory. It’s inspiring.”

Check it out:

• “Food Lover’s Guide to Portland Second Edition,” $17.95, available Sept. 1 at Powell’s and other booksellers.

• A book launch party is set for 6 to 10 p.m. Sept. 1, at Reverend Nat’s Cidery & Public Taproom, 1813 N.E. Second Ave. Hawthorne Books will have food from the book on hand and cider for purchase.

• Crain will moderate a food panel Sept. 11 to launch the book at Powell’s Books, 40 N.W. 10th Ave. The event starts at 7:30 p.m. The panelists will be Nick Zukin, Brett Burmeister, Biwa chef/owner Gabe Rosen, and Nat West, owner of Reverend Nat’s. For more: www.hawthornebooks.com